HB 531 would also shrink the period in which voters could request absentee ballots and limit the time that counties could send ballots out. It would impose new ID requirements for absentee ballots. Another section targets mobile voting facilities, targeting Fulton County’s efforts to make voting more accessible with the use of voting buses.
The bill’s restrictions on early voting would make it harder for people who don’t have the flexibility to leave work to vote, and it would fall harder on heavily populated metro areas than on rural areas with much smaller numbers of voters.
The bill descends into cruelty by banning people from giving food or water to voters waiting in long lines at polling places. Think of it as the criminalization of kindness. And just one more shameful way to discourage people from voting.
This bill was dropped on Georgians as a last-minute surprise. But these provisions didn’t come out of nowhere. There is a nationwide push by right-wing organizations responding to the defeat of Donald Trump by urging Republican legislators to impose new voting restrictions. It is part of a long-term strategy for the shrinking Republican Party and its white conservative base to hang on to power as a new multiracial, multiethnic majority is emerging.
Public officials should welcome energetic civic participation. But Republicans in the statehouse were not happy with the results of the last election, so they are returning to a tried-and-true method to hang on to power. They are simply trying to make it harder for people to turn out the next time.
That tells us all we need to know about their commitment to democracy.
It tells us that they are willing to resist the emergence of a Georgia that reflects the values of John Lewis by resorting to the shameful tactics of Jim Crow.
Rev. Timothy McDonald III is senor pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. Ben Jealous is president of People For the American Way.